Top 5 Best Keyboards For Programming and Development
We web developers and programmers do a lot of typing, so it makes sense that we would invest in the best keyboard for programming. If you haven’t then you may be holding yourself back!.
So what makes a keyboard the best developer keyboard for programming?
We will be looking for an overall decent build quality. A keyboard needs to have as little flex as possible and the keys need to be precise and give enough feedback.
Some of you may require smaller and lighter keyboards that have wireless functionality for if you are programming on the move so we will make sure to pick a programming keyboard to fit the needs of these kind of developers.
One thing every developer keyboard should have though is a full size layout without any cramped keys. Most will also prefer a full num pad on their keyboard too so we have prioritized keyboards that have them.
If you can afford it then a mechanical keyboard will revolutionize your typing. Most mechanical keyboards use the same brand of switches so we will mainly be looking for overall build quality. We cover the different Mechanical switches at the bottom of this article if you need more information in order to choose a particular type of switch.
Best Mechanical Keyboard – Das Keyboard
The Das Keyboard can come with either Cherry MX Blue (Clicky sound) keys or Brown Keys (Quiet but still has clicky feel). For any office dwelling programmers who work around other developers id get the Brown keys, however, some prefer the blue keys for their extra feedback. The Cherry MX keys though are the best keys you can get on a keyboard so you can’t go wrong with either.
The Das Keyboard is absolutely bomb proof and has no flex at all with its aluminum construction which put’s it ahead of the competition.
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is also known as the thinnest mechanical keyboard in the world, making your fingers happy by not being uncomfortably angled for long coding sessions.
This keyboard also has lazer etched keys so you don’t need to worry about the lettering fading any time soon!
As far as developer keyboards go this is about as good as it gets if you are looking for a mechanical keyboard for programming.
Best Chiclet Style Keyboard – Logitech Craft
So this is a new developer keyboard from Logitech and is designed for programmers and designers. It has one key feature that puts it ahead of the competition which is the control wheel that sits at the top left of the keyboard. This wheel interacts with different programs in different ways and is fully programmable. But it makes every day functions like changing brush size in photoshop a pleasure.
This developer keyboard is also wireless but can be plugged in via USB-C so has the best of both worlds to meet everyone’s needs.
This is, however, an expensive keyboard and uses a mix of aluminum and plastic for the construction. However, if you see this keyboard in the flesh then you will understand why it demands the price because it is absolutely solid and the keys are perhaps the best chiclet style keys I have had the pleasure of typing on.
Best Wireless Keyboard – Microsoft Surface Keyboard
Ok so we have already said that the Logitech Craft is the best chiclet keyboard for developers and it also happens to be wireless. However, it is also very expensive so we will throw the Microsoft Surface keyboard into the mix. It still isn’t cheap but cheap wireless keyboards tend to be horrible. This keyboard on the other hand is fantastic and would be a great keyboard for any developer.
This is another keyboard built with aluminum, so it has no flex and is completely bomb proof. The keys are also very tactile and feel even better than its apple equivalent which this has clearly been based on.
This is also a small and light keyboard so if you are picking up a wireless keyboard for its portability, then this certainly won’t disappoint. Despite it being a full size keyboard with a num pad (which is a must for most developer keyboards!).
Best Budget Cherry MX Mechanical Keyboard – Corsair K66
So if you want mechanical on a budget then generally you will be looking to go with Cherry MX Red keys which tend to be cheaper. They are still very high-quality switches though and are similar to MX Brown Switches but have a more linear feel without the click.
The Corsair K66 has a plastic construction, but it is a solid build and wont flex.
It’s a basic keyboard with no back lighting and certainly isn’t the prettiest keyboard. But you are getting Cherry MX switches which is what really counts here.
This is certainly the best mechanical Keyboard for the money which uses Cherry MX Keys.
Best Budget Keyboard – Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite
So if you really need to cut costs and still want a quality developer keyboard then the Cooler Master MasterKeys is perhaps the best bang for buck. Especially considering it comes with a competent gaming mouse!.
The Cooler Master MsterKeys does come with mechanical keys, however, they are Cooler Master’s own brand mechanical keys and aren’t quite as nice to type on as the Cherry MX variant. They are still a massive improvement on old-school rubber dome keys though and won’t disappoint.
This is also the only backlit keyboard on this list, which makes typing in the dark that little bit easier.
Again this is a plastic build but has no flex and it certainly won’t disappoint.
Mechanical Switch Manufacturers
There are many different companies that make mechanical switches today. most are based on the same design which was first created by a German company called Cherry. Their “Cherry MX” line of switches is the gold standard for keyboards and come in many different styles. Cherry MX are the original and often thought of as the absolute best when it comes to mechanical keyboards.
Some say that Chinese manufacturers make pretty good Cherry MX clones. Manufacturers such as Greetech, Kailh, and many others. Razer has teamed up with a factory in China recently to create their own line of mechanical switches, alongside some other companies in the mechanical keyboard industry.
We thoroughly recommend almost any keyboard with Cherry MX switches in them. However, if they are slightly out of your budget then some of the cheaper alternatives can be just as good.
Here’s a list of some characteristics of a mechanical switch that set themselves apart from each other.
This can also be called “operating force”, but it’s basically the amount of pressure a switch needs put on it in order to be depressed. This is measured in grams and typically ranges anywhere from 45g for a light switch to 80g for a stiff, heavy switch. We would recommend staying around 45-60g, especially as a starter since heavier switches can fatigue the fingers.
Actuation point is the distance a key needs to travel for the keystroke to be registered. Most switches register a keystroke before the key is 100% pressed, which allows some people to type lighter and faster compared to having to mash the keys with all their might. Most actuation points range from 2 to 2.4mm.
Tactile vs Non-Tactile
This is a big one. Switches come in tactile and non-tactile varieties.
If a switch is tactile, that means when you press it down, at its actuation point (when the stroke is registered), you will feel a slight bump. This is tactile feedback to your fingers that says “Keystroke confirmed, you can release now”.
The image below shows exactly what causes the tactile feedback. There is a brown protruding bump that rubs against the red, metal clip when the key is pressed. In the second frame, you can see how these two push against each other which gives some resistance that you feel in your fingers.
Non-tactile switches don’t have any bump, so you won’t feel anything as you slide the key down.
Clicky vs Non-Clicky
Finally, tactile switches can be divided into two categories – clicky or non clicky. These categories are exactly what they sound like; some tactile switches make a clicking sound when pressed whereas others don’t. The clicking sound comes from a piece of plastic in the switch that slides around during your key press as seen below.
Some developers love the clicky sound of a keyboard, others hate them. What we will say is if you work with other developers or programmers, then perhaps avoid the clicky blue switches for your next keyboard as they can be quite loud and distracting!
Most popular switche variants
The chart shown below depicts the most popular Cherry MX switches. The color you can see in the middle relates to the style of switch– Red, Brown, Blue, Black, Clear, Green.
Blue and Brown are the most popular, followed by Red.